Celebrating Species Recoveries

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Brown Pelican. Photo by ALAN SCHMIERER / Flickr in the Public Domain

Thanks to Cool Green Science:

Five Endangered Species Recoveries You’ve Never Heard Of

by Christine Peterson

More than 40 species have been officially recovered by the Endangered Species Act. Some, like bald eagles and peregrine falcons, have received a lot of publicity.

Here are five lesser known – but no less interesting – stories of recovery.

The Endangered Species Act had its genesis in the early 1900s, when visionary conservationists like George Bird Grinnell, Gifford Pinchot and Theodore Roosevelt began calling for a change in wildlife management and habitat protection.

“To lose the chance to see frigatebirds soaring in circles above the storm, or a file of pelicans winging their way homeward across the crimson afterglow of the sunset, or a myriad terns flashing in the bright light of midday as they hover in a shifting maze above the beach,” wrote Roosevelt. “Why, the loss is like the loss of a gallery of the masterpieces of the artists of old time.”

Something needed to be done. A lot of those early efforts focused on protecting game species and migratory birds. In the 1960s, conservationists focused on saving species that needed the most help. In 1966, Congress passed the Endangered Species Preservation Act. In 1973, under the Nixon Administration, the Endangered Species Act was born.

Enjoy these five successes: a reptile, mammal, plant, fish and bird.

1. Island Night Lizard

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Island night lizard on Rock Side. Photo © US Navy through a Creative Commons license

Two words are most commonly used to describe the island night lizard: remarkably sedentary.

That may be an understatement.

The small lizard can live to be up to 30 years old, but often sticks to a home range of about 20 yards.

“They have incredibly small little worlds where they live,” says Jane Hendron, spokesperson for the Carlsbad office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They will eat vegetation. They will eat beetles. And during lean times, it’s been demonstrated that if they shed their skin they will even eat their skin.”

The island night lizard – oddly named since it isn’t nocturnal – is found on only a few islands off of California’s coast: San Clemente, San Nicolas and Santa Barbara, and a tiny little islet called Sutil.

They give birth to live young, and because of their general lack of movement, require only about half the food of similarly-sized lizards.

The lizards thrived in their island life until nonnative goats, pigs and rabbits ate most of the vegetation, and feral cats ate the lizards themselves.

The federal government interceded in 1977, and by the mid-‘90s, the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and the U.S. Navy had coordinated to remove all goats, sheep and rabbits. Feral cats were also largely eliminated.

In 2014, the lizards crawled off the endangered species list. More than 20 million are now estimated to live on San Clemente Island, more than 15,000 on San Nicolas and almost 18,000 on Santa Barbara…

Read the whole story here.

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